The third season of The Umbrella Academy arrives for streaming on Netflix on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022, and impressively, it is an improvement on the already-excellent second season. Every member of the main ensemble cast gets their chance to shine in this well-paced season, which balances its time travel paradox against its weird superheroes quite well.
Editor’s note: This review is spoiler-free and based on the entirety of Season 3 of Umbrella Academy.
So You’ve Created a Paradox
The driving conflict of the season derives from the time travel shenanigans of the second season. The Umbrella Academy roster, assembled by extraterrestrial adoptive patriarch Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), now features a different set of inexplicably powered adoptees (well, he still adopts Justin H. Min’s Ben, but in this timeline he’s a dickhead). Instead of the Umbrella Academy, they take the moniker of “Sparrow Academy,” and they seem to generally enjoy a lot more success than their eradicated predecessors ever achieved.
But the return to the present of the Umbrella Academy has resulted in a paradox, creating a kugelblitz: an anomaly that threatens to engulf the entire world unless it can somehow be resolved. The details of this driving element of the plot are delivered through a bit of extremely deft exposition, and suffice to say that it serves as a suitable narrative force for the season. Plus, the reaction this incarnation of Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) has to the kugelblitz is particularly interesting.
These are the sort of high-stakes temporal consequences that heroes often avoid in on-screen stories, so to see The Umbrella Academy explore them extensively is exciting.
Umbrella Academy’s X-Statix Influence
The members of the Sparrow Academy have strange powers. Jayme (Cazzie David) has an ability so cool you’ll wish we saw more of it, and my personal favorite, Fei (Britne Oldford), possesses a relationship with crows that I’m not even going to attempt to describe here. Then there’s Christopher, an inexplicable hovering flesh-cube who exclusively communicates in an inscrutable alien language.
If the Doop-elgänger hasn’t tipped you off yet, this season of The Umbrella Academy has some seriously X-Statix vibes. From the fact that the Sparrows are massive commercial celebrities in their timeline to the somewhat questionable morality of the team, the superheroic elements of the third season call to mind an inescapable comparison to the X-Force, X-Statix, and currently ongoing X-Cellent Marvel Comics runs by Peter Milligan, Michael Allred, Laura Allred, et al.
Just how closely this will parallel the comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá that serve as inspiration for the Netflix adaptation remains to be seen. While the pair are executive producers on the series, this season will presumably run parallel to the story told the forthcoming fourth volume of the comic, meant to be subtitled “The Sparrow Academy.”
But spending too much time considering similarities or differences from the source comic seems especially redundant at this point, especially considering that with the third season, the Netflix series has fully developed its own engaging and well-honed voice.
Meet Viktor Hargreeves
An important element of this season is the fact that Viktor (Elliot Page) comes out as trans. This subplot is well handled, in part because it never threatens to overtake any of the genre elements of the story. The Umbrella Academy is, after all, a genre story, not a trans coming-out narrative.
That being said, Viktor’s transition is refreshing for a number of reasons. Being trans is only one facet of Viktor’s personality, and while it’s an essential part of his story, there is much more than just his gender to Number Seven (and his relationships with the rest of the Umbrella Academy members).
Furthermore, Viktor is far from perfect. Like each and every one of the Hargreeves siblings, he’s a flawed character. While his siblings may model positive trans acceptance in their immediate assumption of Viktor’s true name and pronouns, they don’t give Viktor any special treatment in the context of the family. And while Viktor may be honest about his identity, that doesn’t mean he isn’t able to keep secrets from his siblings in other contexts.
It’s important to have imperfect binary trans characters, in genre stories and everywhere else. Trans people shouldn’t have to be “perfect” in order to exist, and to deny us representation until it can be achieved “flawlessly” is to prevent us from ever appearing. Perfection is a myth, and Viktor’s inclusion as an essential member of the family is an important and meaningful step.
In addition to the aforementioned issues, the other Hargreeves siblings have plenty of problems of their own. The charismatic Diego (David Castañeda) continues to play well off of the delightfully chaotic Lila Pitts (Ritu Arya) as their relationship with one another is complicated in the way only a universe-shredding temporal anomaly can manage. And Luther (Tom Hopper) in particular has some fantastic scenes over several subplots this season.
Another aspect of this season that works well is an attempt to create new character pairings, a propensity that serves Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), and Klaus (Robert Sheehan) especially well.
Book Your Reservations Now
In addition to all this, Umbrella Academy’s third season boasts plenty of the elements that you’ve come to expect from the series: an excellent throwback soundtrack, lots of outrageous action sequences, stellar unique title cards for each episode, and a seasonal supporting cast filled with great performances (with character actor Julian Richings performing an especially memorable role, just as he did in Kingdom Hospital). And speaking of tangential references to Stephen King, keep an eye out for allusions to the classic genre story about super-powered kids with really bad dads, The Shining.
The third season of Umbrella Academy is an excellent example of how engaging genre can be, even when you might think you’ve heard every part of the story before. And even when you have heard it… you’ll want to play this one on repeat.
The third season of The Umbrella Academy will be available for streaming on Netflix beginning on June 22nd, 2022.